Staunton, August 2 – The widespread picture of families in the North Caucasus offered by the leaders of the republics there as strong social units based on mutual respect and the protection offered by traditional values is false, Mariya Klimova and Yuliya Surguyeva say on the basis of interviews with a variety of experts on the region.
The two journalists say that republic leaders like to talk in general terms about how important women are to society but point out that “not one of them” ever has talked in any detail about family violence, rape, honor killings and other customs intended to keep women in subordinate to their husbands (codaru.com/war-on-reason/kavkaz-family/).
Saida Sirazhudinova, president of the Center for Research on Global Issues of the Contemporary World and Regional Problems, says that “we can say that earlier [in the North Caucasus] were strong families” but only because men were given near total power over women and no one challenged that power or came to the defense of women who were mistreated.
Divorce was unheard of and even today, the region has the lowest number of divorces per capita of any part of the Russian Federation. But in fact this figure understates the disintegration of marriages in the North Caucasus as many marriages were never registered with the state and are thus dissolved without its intervention or even notice.
According to Yevgeniya Velichkina, who runs a Makhachkala home for women who have been abused or are suffering, women who don’t have their marriages registered with the state have almost no rights if their husbands dissolve the union. They often are left without income and without access to their own children.
Perhaps the most horrific mistreatment of women in the region involves genital mutilation. Muslim leaders are divided on this illegal operation, with some saying it violates the principles of Islam while others favor and promote it. According to one study, “a minimum of 1240” young women are mutilated in this way every year.
An additional form of the mistreatment of women involves the kidnaping of brides. Sometimes this is done in fun with the full knowledge of all involved, but often it is a real kidnaping – and the woman involved then has no choice but to marry the man who steals her lest she dishonor her own family, the journalists say.
Four months ago, the UN Committee for Ending Discrimination Against Women held the Russian Federation responsible for discriminating against women and demanded that it take measures to change the situation. The tasks involved in doing so are enormous, and there is less than full popular support in the region for the idea.
According to research, 11 percent of women in Chechnya say that their husbands periodically beat them, 28 percent admit to being wounded by them, eight percent say they have been raped or forced to have sex against their will. The situation is as bad or worse in Daghestan, investigators say.
More generally, Asya Gagiyeva of the Women’s Initiative Center in Ingushetia says, women are prevented from working outside the home and thus kept dependent on their husbands’ incomes or alternatively forced to earn the keep of the household while their husbands do nothing.